After a pair of poor seasons, the Delaware Hayes High School girls volleyball team needed to start this season well for the psyche of its players.

After a pair of poor seasons, the Delaware Hayes High School girls volleyball team needed to start this season well for the psyche of its players.

With four players starting for at least the past two seasons, the Pacers did more than that by winning 10 of their first 11 matches.

"The difference is that we've grown together and learned together," junior middle-hitter Ashley Sprau said. "Our team chemistry is great and we're having fun. Maybe the biggest thing was how hard we worked in the offseason and that work ethic has carried over.

"We had quite a few players play club volleyball, we played a lot of summer scrimmages and attended open gyms and they say it's what you do in the offseason that matters."

For players with fragile confidence after finishing 3-17 last season and 2-21 in 2006, coach Doug Franz knew the early part of this season would be crucial to the team's success.

"We knew we had to not only play well early, but earn some wins to gain the confidence in knowing that all the work had paid off," he said. "A 10-1 start is better than I had hoped for, even though I knew these girls could do that something like that."

But the Pacers had lost three of their previous four before playing Watkins Memorial last Thursday, including falling to OCC-Capital Division-rival Mount Vernon 25-22, 19-25, 25-14, 25-20 last Tuesday.

"We were overthinking everything and letting them dictate, which hasn't been the case all season," junior middle-hitter Megan Swan said. "We're not going to dwell on that loss just like we don't dwell on last year. We're just going to move on and get ready for the next one. We just have to play our game and dictate to the opponent."

Swan also acknowledged that having eight players compete in club volleyball helped prepare the Pacers for their breakout season.

Before last Thursday, Sprau led the team with 82 points, 3.3 kills per game, 32 blocks, 27 solo blocks, 2.8 digs per game and 3.7 receptions per game. She was second in serving percentage with .933.

"We have improved so much as a team, and in all areas," Sprau said. "We're greatly improved in hitting, passing and serving."

Swan had 69 points on 87.1 percent serving with 2.0 kills per game, 20 blocks, 17 solo blocks, 1.4 digs and 2.4 receptions. Setter Sarah McKee led the team with 3.9 assists and also had 1.2 digs, with 70 points on .925 percent serving.

Also starting are Kree Blakeman ( 33 points, 1.7 digs, 3.3 receptions), Jen Crozier (28 kills, 12 blocks) and Hilary McGinnis (2.4 receptions, 1.5 digs).

But the Pacers have depth with Carly Shaw at setter, Kasey Parker at outside hitter, Liz Palmer at middle hitter and Jackie Smith at right-side hitter. Shaw had 57 points on .972 serving, and averaged 3.6 assists. Parker had 1.2 kills per game and Palmer added 1.6 kills with 35 blocks, including 17 solo blocks.

Franz is pleased with the entire team, including Chelsea Amato and Hannah Howser, who round out the roster.

"This has been a team effort," Franz said. "They've done it collectively. Our defensive specialists have stepped up, our hitters and setters have stepped up. Against Mount Vernon, we made some mental mistakes and we can't do that.

"So now we're facing some adversity and we'll see if we're strong enough to handle it. I think we are. I know that 11-4 is impressive, but I know these girls will not be satisfied with that. It's important to keep getting better daily."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Hayes girls volleyball team:

Sept. 20 -- Finished fourth in eight-team Dublin Scioto Invitational. The Pacers beat Groveport 25-23 and lost to Gahanna 25-20, 25-11 and Warsaw River View 25-13, 25-10.

*Last Tuesday -- Lost to Mount Vernon 25-22, 19-25, 25-14, 25-20

*Last Thursday -- Defeated Watkins Memorial 25-10, 25-16, 24-26, 28-26

*Tuesday -- Home vs. Big Walnut. The Pacers lost 25-23, 25-15, 25-20 on Sept. 4.

Wednesday -- At North Union. Delaware lost 25-18, 20-25, 25-23, 25-12 last season.

Of note: The Pacers were 11-4 overall and 5-2 in the OCC-Capital before last Thursday.

*OCC-Capital match